Located at the corner of Botsford St. and Queen Streets in Moncton, St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church and Rectory has been central to Catholic life in the Greater Moncton area for over a century. As the Mother Church, St. Bernard’s has seen the growth of a thriving Catholic community.
Before 1755, a small church called “La Chapelle” was built by the Acadians near the current site of Bore Park. However, during the deportation of 1755-63, this church was destroyed by Major Scott under Lt. Col. Robert Monckton’s command.
The early 19th century brought a significant number of Irish immigrants to Moncton’s surrounding areas. Although they didn’t have a church of their own, Masses were initially held in private homes and later at the Free Meeting House on Steadman St., the Reading Room of Salter’s Warehouse on Salter’s Wharf, and the Dunlop Theatre and Music Hall on Main Street.
In 1851, Father F.X. Lafrance of Memramcook purchased land for a church on the current site. It wasn’t until 1872 that a wooden church dedicated to Saint Bernard was built by Father John Murray, the pastor of Saint Anselme.
In 1877, the construction of a larger church began under Father F.X. Cormier and was completed by Father William Foley, the first resident priest in Moncton, in 1879.
With Father Henry Alexis Meahan’s appointment as Parish Priest in 1882, Moncton became the parish of Saint Bernard’s. By 1888, a third and larger church was started to accommodate the rapidly growing parish, leading to the construction of Moncton’s first stone building.
St. Bernard’s Church, built in the Gothic style, is a remarkable testament to the faith of its founding parishioners. Its lofty vaulted ceiling is supported by iron pillars, creating a sense of space and timelessness. Many stained glass windows were donated by families in memory of deceased members, while others were given by societies like the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association and the Catholic Women’s League. The St. Cecilia Sodality donated the exceptional pipe organ in 1918.
Throughout the years, St. Bernard’s Church has undergone numerous renovations. In the early 1960s, Father Anthony McDevitt oversaw the much-needed modernization of the rectory and the addition of a spacious vestry and sacristy.
Irish culture has consistently played a significant role in the parish. The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day concert took place in 1884 and became an annual tradition, featuring plays and musical events. These concerts remained a staple of the parish until the 1950s. After the formation of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association in the 1980s, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Mass was revived, followed by an Irish Dinner in the Church Hall.
With the arrival of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception in 1886, St. Bernard’s became the hub of Catholic education in Moncton. For over a century, the Sisters taught at Wesley Street School, Saint Bernard’s School, Mary’s Home, and Mountain Road School. Other organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus and the Legion of Mary, have also made valuable contributions to parish life.
St. Bernard’s has catered to the pastoral needs of the Italian community as well. Since 1967, Mass has been celebrated in Italian approximately once a month.
In 1996, St. Bernard’s Church, the rectory, and grounds were designated a Heritage Property under the City of Moncton Heritage Preservation By-Law.
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